PEORIA, Ill. — Out of the top 100 cities with the highest STD rates, Peoria ranks 16th … according to statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, as high as 16 might be, some health officials said the new information may not entirely be a bad thing.
Katy Endress, director of Epidemiology/Clinical Services at Peoria County Health Department, said getting these numbers out to the public could inspire them to go out and protect themselves.
“I would say the positives are that people are becoming aware that these diseases are so prevalent in our community,” Endress said.
Prevalent might be an understatement, especially with two specific diseases.
“We are at 1570 cases of Chlamydia for the year 2019,” Endress said. “We finished 2019 with 878 cases of Gonorrhea.”
Peoria health records also show in 2019 more than 60 percent of people with Chlamydia were between the ages of 15 and 24. Researchers found nearly the same number in people with Gonorrhea.
Kacinda Helfers, with the health nonprofit Central Illinois Friends, said one way they’ve been trying to stop the spread of these diseases is going to schools and educating adolescents.
“When we have our educators teaching in these schools, these kids are aware of it and it’s ok,” Helfers said. “When they do know this that means we can keep the rates down because they’re coming in knowing their status.”
Helfers said knowing your status is key. She also said on a positive note, she’s noticed more people coming in to get tested, especially for the first time.
“We make them feel comfortable, safe and secure so they can open up to us so we can test them for the right things,” Helfers said.
She said making it known there’s places in the community to get tested could help get those numbers down.
“The more they know, the more they can do about it,” Helfers said.